Laser Microscope At Cornell Images Serotonin In Live Cells

in absorbs wavelengths below 250 nanometers, a wavelength that is far shorter than the human eye can see or than can penetrate tissue without damage. So quantitative measurement of serotonin in live cells had not been possible. "There are molecules that act like pumps. They concentrate serotonin within a cell. We found very high concentrations, about 50 millimolar, in the secretory granules," he said.

Williams is following the release of serotonin from a cell as it occurs after allergic stimulation. "The larger granules secrete faster. Once the serotonin is secreted it is available in the tissue to stimulate swelling and fluid release," she said. The researchers used a pollen-like antigen to add to the solution that turned the signal on in the cell. As that was happening, the laser was illuminating the process to visualize the granules.

Webb said he hopes to use the technology to look for serotonin secretions deep inside the brain. The technology could be used for studies of the nervous system, not just the immune system or allergic response, but to a broad range of areas.

Webb invented the technology for scanning laser microscopy in 1989 with Winfried Denk, now at AT&T Bell Labs, and Jim Strickler, now at McKinsey Co., and has been using it since for biophysical investigations with pre- and post-doctoral students. Cornell holds a patent on the technology, which recently has been licensed to Bio-Rad Laboratories of California. Webb directs Cornell's Development Resource for Biophysical Imaging and Optoelectronics, funded by the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation. For 3-D image reconstruction, the researchers used the IBM SP2 supercomputer at the Theory Center, part of the NIH Parallel Processing Resource for Biomedical Scientists.


Contact: Larry Bernard
Cornell University News Service

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